24/7’s second episode shows us Bruce Boudreau might actually have a handle on things

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The second episode of HBO’s 24/7 goes to show us that judging teams based on one episode is akin to judging a book by its cover. Caps coach Bruce Boudreau faced a lot of criticism after the first episode and it appeared that all of those questions raised about his preparedness as a coach and his ability to hold the attention of his team in the room were answered emphatically.

Many talked about how Boudreau didn’t appear to have meticulous notes on the whiteboards for the Caps before games making it seem like he was an ill-prepared madman. In Wednesday’s episode we see more of Boudreau the coach with game plans written out with care and seeing him work player-to-player on everything from fighting to injuries to playing psychologist as much as he is a coach. For a team mired in a losing streak doing that is just as important as laying out the x’s and o’s.

In our three things to look out for before the airing of tonight’s episode we found out that the layout of tonight’s episode was indeed easy to pick out but seeing how it was laid out in front of us makes it all more fun. Capping off the episode with Washington beating Ottawa and ending their losing streak to get off their eight game schneid and celebrating to DJ Pauly D’s “Beat Dat Beat” proves that winning can cure everything.

There was a moment that raised eyebrows though and, again, it’s the Caps doing the work. Caps GM George McPhee commented on the negative publicity surrounding the team in their losing streak and said that if those commenting knew anything about hockey they’d be working in it. I get that those on the inside know how things work better when it comes to running a hockey team, but if you’re expecting the local sports talk shows to clam up while the team plays bad hockey, you’re crazy.

Those in the media, whether it’s blogs, newspapers, or talk radio, it’s our job to comment on what we see out on the ice and if what we see stinks, you’d better believe it’s going to be told that way. For McPhee to expect to either be ignored (perhaps in favor of the local NFL failures) or not talked about at all is just crazy and unrealistic.

When you win, you get praised and when you lose you are opened up to criticism, it’s that simple and it’s how the business works. If the Caps are able to keep winning and put that losing streak behind them for good, I’m sure he’ll be quite happy hearing the praise rather than the negative comments. We may not be hockey insiders in the media, but we know a struggling team when we see it.

Not everything McPhee showed in this episode was like this though. McPhee showed that he’s clearly the man in charge of the Capitals and how things are run in D.C. and that whatever happens there is by his design one way or another. Seeing him react to the team falling behind and then coming back against Boston before eventually losing their eighth game in a row is like something out of a feature film. Leave no doubt in your mind that George McPhee is the man running the Capitals.

As for the more fun and light-hearted and enlightening stuff to take away from episode two,there’s a few things:

  • Sidney Crosby’s superstitions are both fascinating and gross. From taping his sticks at a certain time and having a peanut butter and jelly sandwich before a game to seeing that Sid wears the same athletic supporter he has since he was 16 years-old provides some insight as to how quirky even the biggest star of the game is.
  • Alex Ovechkin still living with his parents in Washington provides a nice down home look at the other biggest superstar in the league. Seeing Alex’s mother prepare his dinner for him before hitting the road while seeing him pack lightly only bringing his PS3 reminds you that these guys are still just kids.
  • Penguins agitator Matt Cooke pranking his old friend and Internet superstar Paul Bissonette of the Coyotes by snipping his skate laces and stuffing Dubble Bubble bubble gum into the fingers of his gloves shows that even an on-ice villain can make us laugh.
  • The speech Caps forward Mike Knuble gave after the first period of their game against Boston where the Caps were already down 3-0 might have been the one locker room speech they needed the most to wake them up. He’s not the assistant captain for nothing.
  • Caps fighter Matt Hendricks’ eye after getting punched up by Rangers agitator Sean Avery is one of the grossest and manliest things you’ll ever see on TV.
  • Mike Green has an interesting mode of transportation.
  • Seriously, the Caps celebrate victories to this song and have a locker room Jersey Shore fist pump dance-off. My mind is blown.

Next week’s third episode figures to be the crowning glory of the four episode set as the teams will be preparing to face each other in their game that happens on Thursday night the 23rd. Having the NHL schedule makers set this up so nicely to amp up the drama will make next week’s episode even more of a must-watch.

Canucks avoid arbitration with Boucher, Horvat remains RFA

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The Vancouver Canucks still have some work to do this summer, but at least none of their players will take part in salary arbitration hearings.

After coming to an agreement with Michael Chaput, the Canucks reached a one-year, $687,500 deal with forward Reid Boucher on Monday.

Boucher, 23, has 112 regular-season games under his belt. He spent most of his career (82 of 112 games) with the New Jersey Devils before bouncing to the Nashville Predators (3 games) and then the Canucks (27 games) last season. He averaged a little more than 12 minutes per night with the Canucks, much like with the Devils in 2016-17.

While the arbitration hearings are covered, the Canucks face two lingering RFA situations: Brendan Gaunce, and most importantly, Bo Horvat.

Coyotes sign Langhamer, so only Duclair needs a deal

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The Arizona Coyotes handed a one-year, two-way contract to goalie Marek Langhamer on Monday.

Langhamer would be paid $660K at the NHL level and $67,500 in the AHL, according to AZ Sports’ Craig Morgan.

Langhamer turned 23 on Saturday. He got about the smallest cup of coffee you could ask for with the Coyotes last season: he appeared in one game for 16 minutes, allowing a goal on eight shots.

It was quite the year for the Czech-born goalie, who played seven games in the ECHL and 25 in the AHL along with that brief NHL appearance. He also played in the AHL and ECHL during the 2015-16 season, so he’s been bouncing around.

As a seventh-rounder (184th overall in 2012), Langhamer likely doesn’t take opportunities for granted.

The netminding situation is interestingly fluid in Arizona. Both Antti Raanta and Louis Domingue stand ahead of Langhamer – at minimum – but those two only have one year remaining on their current deals. If nothing else, there’s likely a “prove it” vibe at multiple levels now that Mike Smith is in Calgary.

With Langhamer settled, the Coyotes only have one RFA left to sign, but it’s a tricky one with forward Anthony Duclair. When it came to Duclair, GM John Chayka kept it pretty vague with the Arizona Republic’s Sarah McLellan.

“We’re still trying to determine the best value for the player and the team moving forward,” Chayka said.

Predators are one Johansen deal away from a salary cap work of art

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If you need to kill some time, play this game: which Nashville Predators contract is the biggest steal?

If Viktor Arvidsson is as much of a difference-maker as his limited NHL reps indicate, his $4.25 million cap hit over seven years is certainly in the running. Still, there are plenty of choices.

  • The defense alone is bargain-filled, making P.K. Subban‘s $9 million cap hit easy to stomach.

Ryan Ellis‘ $2.5 million cap hit doesn’t run out until after 2018-19. Mattias Ekholm‘s less of a “well-kept secret” following Nashville’s run to the 2017 Stanley Cup Final, yet his $3.75M steal runs through 2021-22. Roman Josi can be a bit polarizing but at $4M for three more seasons, it’s not controversial to say that he’s probably at least worth the money.

  • The offensive bargains begin with the top line.

Arvidsson has the makings of a legit first-line winger, and that deal is highly likely to be regrettable … for his agent and accountant.

Filip Forsberg‘s $6M isn’t as audacious as some of those defensive steals, but it’s still pretty nice. That total also makes it easier for the Predators to try to control costs for their one remaining big consideration: Ryan Johansen, who still needs a deal as an RFA.

  • Calle Jarnkrok is a pretty nifty get at $2M per season, especially if he grows with a contract that runs through 2021-22.
  • Scott Hartnell took quite the homecoming discount at $1M for 2017-18.
  • As you go deeper, the Predators enjoy some nice deals on players who are under ELC’s or second contracts: Kevin Fiala ($863K), Frederick Gaudreau ($667K), Ponuts Aberg ($650K) and Colton Sissons ($625K) could all be helpful contributors at low costs.

This tweet really sells the point, in case this post hasn’t: GM David Poile hasn’t been slowing down much since being named GM of the Year. And he might just be the best executive in the NHL right now.

  • It’s all pretty immaculate; even if you’re not a fan of Pekka Rinne, his $7 million cap hit expires in two seasons. By then, the Predators could very well transition to Juuse Saros, possibly echoing the Penguins with Marc-Andre Fleury and Matt Murray along the way.

Overall, it’s an enviable situation, as Nashville’s clean cap ranks with Pittsburgh and few others as the best-looking in the NHL. That’s especially true when you consider the fact that the Lightning are allocating $8.8 million to the shaky duo of former Rangers in Ryan Callahan and Dan Girardi.

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Still, the Predators aren’t done for the summer, as Johansen stands as a tricky situation. They don’t have the helpful deadline of arbitration looming, so the two sides are just going to have to figure something out … eventually.

Even so, Cap Friendly pegs them at $13.43 million in cap space, so they have room to work with their first-line center.

While teams like the Penguins and Blackhawks stocked up on high draft picks, the Predators’ greatest moves have largely come through shrewd drafting, savvy trades, and forward-thinking contract extensions. One can debate which setup is the best, but Poile’s work places Nashville in the upper crust, and their built to stay there for years to come.

Related: Matt Murray, Jake Guentzel could help Penguins compete for years.

Okposo to fans: ‘Thinking about your support brings a tear to my eye’

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In a lengthy and heartfelt letter, Kyle Okposo thanked the hockey community – especially but not only Buffalo Sabres fans and teammates – for their support after his hospitalization.

Okposo also shared some personal details about how a seemingly innocent hit affected his sleep and caused alarming weight loss, dropping him below 200 lbs. for the first time since he was 17. He said he checked into a hospital expecting to get help sleeping, only to go to ICU after a negative reaction to medication.

As scary as that experience was, it helped him put his career and life in perspective. Okposo also realized just how much fans, teammates, and people associated with the sport can help each other in times of need.

It’s a really great letter and worth reading in full (especially considering his praise for new Sabres management), but here’s one of the more inspiring excerpts:

When I turned my phone on, I had 500 messages waiting for me. Current players, former players, former coaches – everyone reached out. Even now, fans see me in Minnesota or Buffalo and say, ‘I’m just really glad you’re doing OK.’ It’s overwhelming, and it makes me proud to be a part of the hockey community. We’re a tight-knit group and we stick together. Thinking about your support brings a tear to my eye.

The messages from my Sabres teammates meant a lot in particular. I’ve only played with those guys for one year, with Matt Moulson being the exception, and we didn’t have the type of season that we wanted. The fact that all of them were so supportive through this shows that the bond between teammates really does transcend what happens on the ice.

Okposo noted that he appreciated playing in “Da Beauty League” last week, even though his team got “whacked.”

Read more about him being involved in that here, and how happy Zach Parise and others were to see him play in this article. Okposo also reaffirms the belief that he’ll be ready to go for Sabres training camp in that letter.